OhmniLabs Uses Robots to Make Telepresence a Reality
Monday February 11, 2019
Anyone who has made a video call knows its limitations: holding up a phone or tablet is cumbersome, silences are awkward, and the interaction itself can be a bit artificial. OhmniLabs uses robots to transform simple video calls into “telepresence,” a more natural and immersive form of communication. The Santa Clara, California-based company designs rolling robots with a mounted display and hardware. A user can call in to the robot, connect, and move the robot around its space using a controller.
While this might seem like a minor difference from traditional video calls, Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Thuc Vu, points out that it actually changes the experience dramatically. “Our telepresence robot makes the experience of being there more authentic,” says Thuc, citing a recent example in which he sent an Ohmni robot to his grandmother in Vietnam. “She can continue cooking, while I drive around, poke my nose into ingredients, pots and pans and ask her questions about her recipes. I don’t have to wait for her to charge a phone or computer, and she doesn’t have to hold up the phone the entire time or sit in front of a desk.”
These authentic connections are enabled by thoughtful engineering within each robot. Dual wide-angle cameras with a tilting display give a broad view, a far-field microphone and speaker allow users to hear and speak across a room, and a 5-6-hour battery life with the ability to auto-dock to a charging station ensures that a connection is almost always available.
The $1,500 price tag may seem steep, but people are buying in. “Since our launch on Indiegogo in April 2017, we have shipped hundreds of robots around the world,” says Vu. “In 2018 alone, more than 20,000 calls were made using our Ohmni telepresence robots.”
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